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Revival and Invention

Sculpture through its Material Histories

Edited By Sébastien Clerbois and Martina Droth

Materials may seem to be sculpture’s most obvious aspect. Traditionally seen as a means to an end, and frequently studied in terms of technical procedures, their intrinsic meaning often remains unquestioned. Yet materials comprise a field rich in meaning, bringing into play a wide range of issues crucial to our understanding of sculpture. This book places materials at the centre of our approach to sculpture, examining their symbolic and aesthetic language, their abstract and philosophical associations, and the ways in which they reveal the political, economic and social contexts of sculptural practice. Spanning a chronology from antiquity through to the end of the nineteenth century, the essays collected in this book uncover material properties as fundamental to artistic intentionality.

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Malcolm Baker - Shifting Materials, Shifting Values? Contemporary Responses to the Materials of Eighteenth-Century Sculpture 171

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Malcolm Baker Shifting Materials, Shifting Values? Contemporary Responses to the Materials of Eighteenth-Century Sculpture It is not too much of an exaggeration to say at the start that viewing sculp- ture and making sculpture have, at least until quite recently, been consid- ered separately.1 Rather surprisingly, the discussion of one has been largely unconnected with the consideration of the other, each seeming to prompt a rather dif ferent set of questions and even to demand a dif ferent mode of writing. Fortunately, however, one of the shifts which has made the his- tory of sculpture such a lively and stimulating field of study within the past decade or so, has been an engagement with both these approaches. There is now a recognition of what might be done by thinking about reception and materiality together.2 This approach is especially productive and, indeed, appropriate in the case of eighteenth-century sculpture, for at the very time when there was a heightened concern with aesthetic theory and the way in which works of art were apprehended by the viewer, there was an even more widespread interest in materials and processes of manufacture. Taking this conjunction as my starting point, I should like to address the way in which production and reception were connected in the percep- tion of sculpture and its materials during this period. Rightly, a number of papers in this volume address questions about individual materials. Here, however, I should like to ask about the way in which dif ferent materials related...

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